Progress for Climate Justice

Climate Justice March in Oklahoma City, September 20, 2019

When climate justice advocates learn what is in the compromise climate legislation negotiated by Senator Schumer with Senator Manchin, we won’t like all of it, but it moves the needle in a more positive direction. The way to improve on this compromise in the future is not to bash President Biden for signing legislation that doesn’t address all of the aspects of the climate crisis we are facing. Rather the solution is to elect more Democratic senators in 2022 so we don’t have to rely on the owner of a coal energy company to determine climate justice legislation.

President Biden and the vast majority of Democratic senators wanted a lot more than what is in the proposed legislation. We need to be working with those legislators who wanted more so that we can achieve continued progress in the near future. The bill being drafted is not all we need, but it is better than we had, and I guarantee you if a Republican gets into the White House in 2024, all progress will be dismantled.

We still have a few hurdles before this potentially historic climate legislation is signed into law. Senator Sinema of Arizona seems to be as willing to block important legislation to satisfy special interests as Senator Manchin has been, and I am praying we don’t see a Lucy moves the football of climate legislation just as President Biden prepares to kick it through the goalposts of climate action.

I am hopeful that Sinema’s political context in Arizona is such that she will not have the same power to halt this legislation as did Manchin, but we also know that the negotiated proposal contains an increased tax on carried interest that Sinema’s corporate donors oppose. The question remains whether she would be willing to be the lone Democrat in the United States Senate to vote against what would be the most important progress ever made for climate justice by Congress.

I will not celebrate until the proposed legislation is signed into law, but if it is signed into law, I will truly celebrate and not lament that it is not enough. I will see it as an important first legislative step, lift it up as an accomplishment of the climate justice movement, and work with others to use it as the foundation upon which to make more advances in the future.

This is not the time to let the perfect be the enemy of the good or the enemy of the better. We know what another Trump administration would do to destroy both climate justice and our democracy. Even if Trump is not the Republican nominee, we know that the Republican party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry. The climate crisis requires that we keep electing climate justice Democrats until we have enough of them in Congress to pass legislation that will move us even more quickly away from fossil fuels for the sake of saving a livable climate.

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